May 26, 2022


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Helping underrepresented doctoral students of color thrive in the broader MIT community | MIT News

The MIT University Center for Exemplary Mentoring (UCEM) was launched in 2015 with an Alfred P. Sloan Foundation grant that centers on the recruitment, retention, and academic achievements of underrepresented doctoral college students of colour in five areas in the Faculty of Engineering: the departments of Biological Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Personal computer Science (EECS), and Mechanical Engineering, and the Institute for Healthcare Engineering and Science/Harvard-MIT Plan in Health and fitness Sciences and Technological know-how.

Promising PhD candidates are recruited for the UCEM method, and as soon as enrolled receive monetary assist, mentorship, and experienced growth instruction as effectively as access to a wide and various experienced network. 

UCEM engages candidates as a result of the total system of “thinking about a PhD, finding in and accomplishing a PhD, and then exiting the PhD,” says Leslie Kolodziejski, UCEM principal investigator and professor of electrical engineering in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Laptop or computer Science (EECS). More than the everyday living of UCEM consequently considerably, 83 students have been supported, with 58 scholars presently in the program.

A valued house at MIT

UCEM Scholar Jean Carlos Serrano Flores SM ’18 PhD ’21, a graduate of the Office of Mechanical Engineering, remembers very first encountering UCEM at an MIT party ahead of he had formally approved his supply of admission.

“I experienced two students from [UCEM] straight speak to me prior to my selection,” Serrano Flores claims. “UCEM made me come to feel a lot much more safe that I was heading someplace wherever I’d be welcome … and supported.”

Danielle Olson ’14, SM ’19, PhD ’21, also a UCEM scholar and a graduate of EECS, names the UCEM funding as being an essential aspect of her selection to show up at MIT. She also said that she’s appreciated the adaptability of the funding, which can be utilized to show up at conferences and for analysis fees that are not included less than lab funding.

But each Olson and Serrano Flores emphasize the price of the group and mentorship aspects of the UCEM plan. UCEM students get to know every single other by way of seminars, a single-on-a single mentoring, conferences, and other UCEM gatherings, these kinds of as typical scholar lunches and social activities.

Serrano Flores describes seminars ranging from developing diverse features of a scholar’s tutorial career to navigating interpersonal relationships with advisors and peers to taking care of racial biases that graduate pupils of colour expertise in academia.

“We’re all from underrepresented backgrounds,” claims Serrano Flores. “Being in a place with everybody that is aware of the encounters that you would go [through] alongside the way, and how difficult it is to really take care of them in modern entire world, was actually very good.”

Olson feels in the same way.

“I felt definitely firsthand in my initially numerous several years of graduate faculty that it’s truly effortless to come to feel like you could drop between the cracks if you will not have support in spot,” she states.

Olson says she was in a position to accessibility 1-on-a single help via UCEM, in addition to getting room to communicate about popular difficulties these types of as “imposter syndrome.”

“I wouldn’t automatically go to a community celebration in my neighborhood of analysis to communicate about those people items,” she says. “But [at UCEM] you have these spaces the place you can not only have straightforward discussions … but also get procedures for addressing those issues.”

Bianca Lepe is a fourth-12 months PhD prospect in the Department of Biological Engineering, a UCEM scholar, and the Graduate University student Council’s variety, equity, and inclusion chair. She suggests that the networking opportunities at UCEM served her get the “lay of the land,” so that she could far more efficiently take part in addressing tutorial racism at MIT.

“I am on the steering committee for the Strategic Action Plan which is being developed close to variety, equity, and inclusion,” Lepe suggests. “A great deal of the conversations and lived experiences that I have experienced [with] my fellow UCEM students has been truly valuable in generating the priorities … under the official MIT strategic system.”

Rising illustration in academia

In accordance with the Sloan Foundation aim to maximize illustration in academic faculty positions, Kolodziejski claims that UCEM scholars go to the Institute on Educating and Mentoring conference twice all through their tenure at MIT. The meeting is a three-day crash class in the fundamentals of staying a professor, and handles subject areas ranging from mentoring students to producing proposals to presenting scholarship and providing presentations for employment.

Kolodziejski claims that participation in this convention can be really clarifying for students, and for people who want to pursue an academic path, it allows outfit them with the equipment they will need on graduating. Nevertheless, Kolodziejski will make it crystal clear that UCEM scholars are under no obligation to choose an academic route.

For a lot more details about UCEM, or if you are fascinated in starting to be a UCEM scholar, be sure to stop by the UCEM web page.